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Open Country
Sat  6.10 - 6.35am
Thurs 1.30 - 2.00pm (rpt)
Local people making their corner of rural Britain unique
This week
Saturday 2 September 2006
Listen to this programme in full
This week, Richard Uridge takes a journey through the Golden Valley in Gloucestershire
The Golden Valley in Gloucestershire runs the seven miles between Stroud and the Sapperton Tunnel. It is a place of superb natural beauty but has also been the centre of industrial wealth for the Cotswolds. Back in the 1300s, the Cotswold Lion Sheep were famous throughout Europe for their heavy fleeces and high quality of wool, providing the raw material for a flourishing woollen trade. The wealth brought by this is still evident in the large churches and fine houses still seen today throughout the Cotswolds.

At one point, up to 150 mills thundered out along the length of the valley and as the need for efficient transport became compelling the clothiers of Stroud invited Isambard Kingdom Brunel to build a branch line of the G.W.R to link the valley with Cheltenham, Swindon and London. Changes in fashion, however, took the textile industry to West Yorkshire as the demand grew for worsteds and tweeds and the Cotswold mills diversified into other industries, including the manufacture of the first lawn mower.

Richard Uridge meets:

Tamsin Treverton-Jones, a local writer who in the 200th year since Brunel was born describes the famous engineer's legacy still visible today.

Thomas Jackson, a local farmer who keeps Cotswold Lion sheep. These large animals whose wool resembles a lion's mane are actually quite docile, but their wool is very plentiful. As mechanization came, though, the wool became unsuitable and there was a move towards using the wool of other sheep, typically merino.

Ian Mackintosh takes us to St Mary's Mill in Chalford. Here a pair of the last working fulling stocks used to 'shrink' the cloth in the Stroud area can still be seen. At the Sapperton Tunnel Ian tells of the end of 'Stroud time' Before 1845 Stroud set its time by the sun. Being some 90 miles west of the meridian, the clocks in Stroud struck noon a few minutes after they did in London. This meant that commuters missed their trains, which were running on London time. In 1858, a new clock set to Railway time was installed in Stroud and can be seen today at Stroud Library. Eventually Stroud had to adopt GMT like everyone else.

Trevor Picken is the owner of one of five surviving Hampton Cars produced in the Golden Valley as a diversification from the textile industry. All five of these high quality vintage cars are now to be found in the West Country.

Colin Burford & David Smith work for Millikens Wool manufacturers, the only surviving textile mill in the valley tracing its roots back to the early days of weaving. Originally they made cloth used for the uniforms of British soldiers, dyed in a colour known as Stroud Scarlet. Nowadays the company specialises in making woollen material for sporting events, such as tennis balls for Wimbledon and the green felt for snooker tables at the Crucible.
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